Peru front-runner Humala aims to assuage investors

Reuters News
Posted: Apr 03, 2011 12:21 PM
Peru front-runner Humala aims to assuage investors

By Teresa Cespedes and Caroline Stauffer

LIMA (Reuters) - Left-wing nationalist Ollanta Humala cemented his lead in Peru's presidential race, polls showed Sunday, as he promised investors he would manage the economy prudently despite his radical past.

Humala was at 27 percent in a poll by survey firm Ipsos and 28 percent in one by pollster CPI -- putting him between seven and 10 points in front of three more market-friendly rivals before the April 10 vote.

Former president Alejandro Toledo, lawmaker Keiko Fujimori and former prime minister Pedro Pablo Kuczynski are all nearly tied for second place in Peru, where the economy is forecast to grow 7 percent this year after surging 9 percent last year.

One of those candidates will likely face Humala in a run-off election on June 5 since no candidate is projected to win an outright majority of votes next Sunday. Humala won the first round in the 2006 race but lost a run-off to President Alan Garcia, who cannot run again.

To improve his chances in the second round, Humala has tried to recast himself as a political moderate by promising to keep inflation low and stick to sound fiscal policies. He has also started wearing suits and calling himself a devout Roman Catholic to appeal to more centrist voters.

But local financial markets have been volatile in recent days on worries he would pursue a statist economic agenda that would hurt foreign investment. Analysts have said his Nationalist Party would have few seats in Congress, hindering its ability to push big changes through the legislature.

"We will always be open to dialogue (with investors and Congress). We promise to maintain macroeconomic prudence and a balanced fiscal position," he told Reuters over the weekend. "I don't think there's any reason not to believe us."

In the Ipsos poll of 2,000 people, Fujimori was at 20.5 percent, Toledo at 18.5 percent and Kuczynski at 18.1 percent. Former Lima Mayor Luis Castaneda was far back at 12.8 percent. The margin of error was 2.2 percent in the poll conducted March 26 to April 1.

In the CPI poll of 1,500 people, Toledo was at 19.6 percent, Fujimori at 19.1 and Kuczynski at 17.8. Details of the margin of error were not immediately available.

The Ipsos poll showed Humala would be highly competitive in the second round, though the CPI poll showed he would lose to any potential rival.

(Additional reporting by Terry Wade; Editing by Eric Walsh)